Friday, July 26, 2019


Robowar (aka Robot da Guerra)
Bruno Mattei

Director Bruno Mattei, and writers Claudio Fragasso and Rosella Drudi, never met a big-budget genre movie they didn’t like to swipe from, and Robowar takes its entire structure and whole scenes (and heck, even the title font) directly from Predator (1987). Robowar is a dumber, cheaper, and far more ridiculous funhouse mirror version of Predator, but it is also an interesting view on how someone from outside the United States interprets a popular cultural. This unusual approach along with the cartoonish machismo of the characters, the wildly (and delightfully) clich├ęd 1980s hard rock music, and the clumsy attempt at a serious message and emotional payoff creates a film that is very strange but also very entertaining.

The Robowar character select screen.
For all of its faults, Robowar manages to pull together a fun cast of mercenaries. Leading the group is Reb Brown as Major. Murphy Black. Reb’s acting has always been flat, but I never get the impression he’s giving less than 100% when he’s on-screen. He’s square-jawed, musclebound, and blonde in a way that just screams 1980s typical American movie hero. Speaking of screaming, Reb gets in plenty of his signature weird yell-screams throughout the movie.  The rest of the BAMs (Big Ass Motherfuckers… no really that’s their team name) include Quang (Max Laurel) the Filipino tracker who mutters things such as “I shall be as his shadow,” Papa Doc (John P. Dulaney) who is out of shape and smokes a pipe but seems to keep up with the rest of the squad just fine, and the fantastically sweaty Mascher (Mel Davidson) who is sent along on the mission to keep an eye on Omega-1 (Claudio Fragasso).

Their opponent, in this case, is not a trophy hunting alien but a rogue cyborg called Omega-1 that is wandering around some jungle island blowing up villagers for no reason. Omega-1 one looks like he’s wearing a motorcycle helmet and some black football pads. His most irritating feature is a constant babbling computer voice coupled with “robot visions” that are so pixelated as to be visually incoherent. In Predator the sound of its strange clicking and the images of its heat vision are not only used to elect moments of tension, but they become a plot element in the third act. In Robowar these sounds and images do nothing but annoy the viewer.

The music of Robowar is a mix of synthesizer and hard rock anthems that are deployed loudly during the least dramatic moments in the film; the endless scenes of walking through the jungle. The closing credits theme is pretty catchy, and possibly the highlight of the whole film.

If you like the excess of 1980s Italian genre film and the brazen stealing from other successful films then Robowar is almost perfect. It is an enjoyable action movie that has plenty of moments both intentional and unintentional to keep you engaged and dare I say it even delighted at times.

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